The Ancient Town of Gloveburgh


NOTE: The new town area contains most of the housing for the 900-or-so current residents; the buildings are of little interest, although they are built of local stone. There are eight public houses. The harbour, with its unique semicircular quay, is now used as a marina.
The old town of Gloveburgh is situated midway between Whitby and Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

Although it is a very old Saxon settlement (700 AD or so), it never became an important port -- its harbor was too small and exposed to North Sea gales. A unique feature, however, is the existence of the town wall below the castle along the River Gloven. In medieval times, there was a period of great prosperity when gold was discovered in the Gloven valley, and was exploited by the Dukes of Northumberland, hence the strong walls and fine buildings in the northern part of the town. The southern portion was torn down in the 18th Century, when the town was expanded as a spa (not a very successful one), and the rest was very ruinous until recently.

Gloveburgh was founded by Saxon fishermen in the 8th Century. A noted resident was St Buller, an early convert to Christianity, who established a monastery here after a life of raiding and pillage along the Northumbrian and Lothian coasts. He died in 778 and was sainted soon thereafter; the shrine (now in the parish church crypt) became an important property of Fountains Abbey until the Dissolution.

Gloveburgh fell into hard times after the mining-out of the gold mines and the failure of the 18th-century spa. Population fell to less than 200 people by 1830, and the old town fell into ruins, the remains used mainly by the small fishing fleet that was the mainstay of the local economy. The West Gate became a local museum with objects of various interest concerning the town and Gloven valley neighborhood in 1976. The town houses on the south side of Fishmarket Square were renovated during the latter part of that decade and are now registered historic buildings, along with the guildhall at the east end of the row near the South Quay Tower (which is used by the coast guard, whereas the North Quay Tower is a restaurant). The parish church of St Buller's was badly restored by the Victorians, but has some ancient stonework and monuments. The peal of six bells in the tower is locally famous among bell-ringing aficionados.

In the mid 1980's, a syndicate made up of ex-directors of Butlin's and Alton Towers, purchased most of the Old Town area, including the walls, from the Duke of Northumberland, and did a major renovation/restoration for a theme park (also a holiday camp, which is located along the fine sandy beach area below the New Town). The four wall towers are, respectively, a 'prison/dungeon/torture' museum, a medieval costume exhibit (armor and gowns), a gold-prospecting and mining gallery, and a North-Sea fishing museum. Three northern blocks of houses are summer rentals, shops take up the block next to the harbour wall, and only the buildings north of the parish church (Bubbin's Square, where the town well is located) are private residences. Glove Castle is a two-star hotel owned by the same group.

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